"SEATTLE--The vessel designated to act as a crucial oil spill containment system in Arctic waters has obtained Coast Guard approval to meet less rigorous weather standards than originally proposed. But, less than two weeks before drilling off Alaska's northern coast is due to begin, a series of troubling construction delays have left the Arctic Challenger without federal certification."
"The certification issue is the most serious Shell must confront if it is to successfully launch a exploratory drilling program, the first in Arctic waters in two decades, in which it already has invested $4 billion. With a tight weather window before the onset of ice in the fall, Shell engineers had hoped to begin drilling during the first week of August.
But Coast Guard officials said Thursday that several important systems remained to be installed before they could certify the oil spill containment vessel. Sources familiar with the multimillion-dollar refurbishing underway in Bellingham, Wash., said it was clear that the 38-year-old barge would not be ready for sea trials by July 23—a date recently set after a previous schedule was scrapped."